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British Farmers Urged to Grow Curry Ingredients For a Sustainable Future

Leon Kaye | Wednesday July 11th, 2012 | 3 Comments
defra, united kingdom, Leon Kaye, curry, sustainable curry, chickpeas, Adele, Absolutely Fabulous, Keeping Up Appearances, East London, London

A Defra “Composite Product”

In a bold move to make the United Kingdom a more sustainable society and to ensure that the only edible food across the pond is grown locally, the coalition government has suggested that farming in Britain focuses on growing local curry ingredients. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, an acronym, not a curry ingredient), after extensive study, has decided that the domestic cultivation of curry ingredients would lead to enhanced consumer food literacy and improved waste reduction behaviors.

The report’s conclusions are sure to confuse British farmers, many of whom only three weeks before the Olympics’ opening ceremony have been tasked with raising chickens for the Olympiad’s McDonald’s locations that will serve millions of tourists who will not venture into East London to dine at the city’s fine curry establishments. Defra, however, insists that domestically grown curry ingredients will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which ignores the fact that the gases emitted after a meal in an East London curry house would occur whether the ingredients were grown locally or not.

Key to this move towards development would be that spices, a key raw material of curry, may only be present in small quantities, but nonetheless add “to the environmental burden of the dish and reliance on imported ingredients.” One Defra employee interviewed for this article under the condition that he remain unnamed, however, said that an internal analysis of turmeric cultivation revealed the annual amount of carbon emissions that would be reduced due to domestic production of this important spice would equal the carbon footprint of the hat Princess Beatrice wore at last year’s royal wedding. Still another Defra analyst, furious about her colleague’s leak, insisted this employee was just upset because his words in section 2.9 of the Green Food Project Curry Sub Group Report, which originally stated that “curry (including side dishes) tastes very good,” were replaced with the more scientifically accurate statement that “curry (including side dishes) has a variable composition.”

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The curry supply chain

In fact, just about every ingredient that comprises curry is an import save for yoghurt, the production of which the UK is impressively self-sufficient: 70 percent of all yoghurt is produced domestically with the rest rumored to come from Kosovo. Even more encouraging is Defra’s revelation that Great Britain is self-sufficient in cream, a shocking conclusion considering that 1) Brits dump copious amounts of it in their tea and 2) most of the country’s cream supply was exhausted in the 1990s during repeated tapings of coffee spill scenes in the BBC’s iconic Keeping Up Appearances.

But the most important part of a curry “meal,” or in Defra-speak, “composite product,” is the chickpea. Chickpeas are a sustainable protein source that are grown in just about every country with decent climate, which incidentally does not exist in Britain except in Adele’s home in Bristol, because of their high nutritional content. While the study did not indicate whether chickpeas could actually be cultivated in Britain, the chickpeas MySpace page revealed that their music is fairly decent. Delfa, however, did meet the “challenge of producing a curry which reflected the challenges and conclusions of the subgroup’s work,” and the recipe for “reformulated curry” indicates that Delfa’s Curry Sub Group spent much of their time testing recipes and not developing a strategy of just how British farmers would grow ingredients in an environment that can support Stonehenge and the Cotswolds but not much else. The final report issued by Delfa, however, is rich in curry recipes that are tucked in the appendix and may be used with the Crown’s permission.

In sum, the future of Britain will depend on the progress of curry. The pressure is on farmers:

“More radical solutions to improve production and environmental impact by 2050 are needed. Those include decarbonisation of energy initiatives, developments in biotechnology and of more sustainable protein sources, and developing better understanding of consumer behaviour, cultural and social values (including radical choice editing).”

Whether “cooperation across the curry chain” becomes a reality is yet to be seen.

This is Leon Kaye’s 600th article for Triple Pundit. He is awaiting word whether he is invited back for his 601st after this morning. Based in California, Leon is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter. He will tweet you a recipe for waffles made out of chickpea flour, which makes a good morning “composite product.” Leon has not visited the UK since 2000 but does not need to because he has watched every episode of Absolutely Fabulous and Keeping Up Appearances at least 20 times.

Images courtesy Delfa.


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  • Nicholas Palmer

    Unfortunately there will be some who don’t see this article for the sly humour that it is…

  • http://twitter.com/LeonKaye Leon Kaye

    Look, much of that language was lifted directly from the groundbreaking study. Now I crave a composite product.

  • Axel

    Nice one. Best Leon post in a while!